“The Democrats want to shut down the Government over Amnesty for all and Border Security,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning, continuing a long series of blustery posts that have treated the prospect of a shutdown as all but inevitable. “The biggest loser will be our rapidly rebuilding Military, at a time we need it more than ever. We need a merit based system of immigration, and we need it now! No more dangerous Lottery.”
The deal that Durbin and five other senators—three Democrats and three Republicans in all—brought to Trump would have offered a lengthy path to citizenship for nearly 700,000 DACA recipients and a renewable legal status to their parents. It reportedly would have provided at least $1.6 billion for Trump’s wall and more for additional border security, and it would have modified family-based immigration and the diversity visa lottery. But Trump wanted more wall funding and broader changes to the legal immigration system.
Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and Durbin used her appearance to bring to light the discussion that took place at the White House meeting in which Trump allegedly made vulgar comments. Durbin said Trump demanded an appropriation of $20 billion so that his wall could be constructed in a single year—a sum that is more than 10 times as much as the president requested in his 2018 budget proposal. “The president is insisting on something that is physically, legally impossible,” Durbin said, pointing out that because of likely lawsuits and the complication of construction, a wall couldn’t be built that quickly no matter how much money Congress appropriated.
While dancing around the particular words that Trump used in the meeting, Nielsen confirmed his new funding demand and said the administration was also insisting on policy changes that would make it easier to apprehend and deport undocumented immigrants who might be terrorists or carrying drugs.
“We gave you every penny you asked for,” Durbin said in reference to the bipartisan proposal.
“It’s not the pennies. It’s the loopholes,” Nielsen replied.
Republican and Democratic negotiators are simultaneously working on a long-term spending agreement that will lift caps for the military and domestic agencies. But even if they struck a deal in the next few days, another continuing resolution would be needed to give bill-writers time to draft legislation.
Despite the bleak outlook at the moment, there are a few ways that Congress could avoid a shutdown at week’s end. The simplest, but seemingly least likely, is a DACA deal. Durbin and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have held out hope that Trump might come around on the agreement they reached, or at least that it might form the basis of a final deal. Durbin is also part of a separate group of the four “Number 2” House and Senate leaders in each party that are expected to resume negotiations. Democratic leaders have said that as long as an agreement is reached with Trump’s support, they would help Republicans keep the government open while the legislation is drafted.